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Many Chicago High Schools Below Standards, State Finds

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Two-thirds of the public high schools visited in Chicago by teams of state investigators did not meet minimum standards, a new report has revealed.

Evaluators from the Illinois Board of Education found that many of the schools were in poor physical condition, that a majority of students skipped study hall, and that incomplete data-keeping was commonplace.

More than half of the full-time substitute teachers employed in the schools had unverified teaching credentials, the evaluators reported. In addition, they said, school administrators were unprepared to conduct teacher evaluations.

State investigators studied 30 of the city's 65 high schools between November 1988 and March 1989. The probe was spurred by a highly critical series of articles about the school system published by a local newspaper last year. The state also evaluates about a third of the city's schools every year as part of its regular compliance program.

Only 10 of the schools studied met the state's minimum standards. All 30 schools will be visited and evaluated again next fall.

State law requires all students to have at least 300 minutes of class time a day, including study hall. But many students at the schools visited regularly skipped study periods, the investigators found. In some schools, they reported, more than 90 percent of all students failed to attend study hall. Teachers were unable to account for the absentees because of poor record-keeping procedures, according to the report.

"The kids just weren't where they were supposed to be," Leo Hennessy, the state's assistant superintendent for supervision and recognition of schools, said last week.

Deficiencies similar to those noted in the report convinced the state legislature to adopt a district-restructuring bill last year that gives more school-decisionmaking responsibility to Chicago parents.

The law calls for the dissolution of the current board of education, which held what was expected to be its last meeting last week. Mayor Richard M. Daley has said he will appoint the members of an interim board by the end of the month.

Robert Saigh, a spokesman for the district, said that central-office administrators and school principals were reviewing the report, which was presented to the district this month.

"Where shortcomings are identified in the report, the school system will address them to the extent that they can with the resources that are available," he said.

He added that the district would need more funds to take many of the corrective steps outlined in the report, such as improving the data-collection system and the monitoring of study periods.--ef

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